Dinghy Safety

Wearing a buoyancy aid is strongly recommended for dinghy sailing. As its name suggests, it helps flotation in the water should the crew capsize. Buoyancy aids are recommended only for use by swimmers in sheltered waters when help is close to hand. Unlike lifejackets, they are not guaranteed to turn a person from a face-down position in the water. Flotation is measured in Newtons (N): 10N = 2.2 lb (1 kg) flotation. You should always get professional advice when fitting a buoyancy aid, but as a rule of thumb 50N is suitable for sailors weighing more than 154 lb (70 kg); 45N for 132-154 lb (60-70 kg); 40N for 88-132 lb (40-60 kg) and 35N for up to 88 lb (40 kg). Features to look for include closed-cell foam construction, which is light and will not deteriorate, a zipper or Velcro pocket with room for a whistle and knife, a waist belt to prevent the buoyancy aid from riding up, and a crotch strap for added security on junior sizes.

Life Jacket With Crotch Straps


Pull-on buoyancy aids with side-entry zippers are favored by dinghy racers. The sailor's upper body and arms are unrestricted, with elasticated sides, shoulders, and hem for a snug fit. The buoyancy aid is worn over the trapeze harness with the hem pulled in tight fRONT-ENTRY ZIPPER

Vest-style buoyancy aids are slightly bulkier than pull-on buoyancy aids, but they are easier to put on and a great choice for recreational sailing. Adjustable shoulder straps are a useful feature for a perfect fit.


The skipper should instruct the crew when they need to wear a harness and lifejacket—always in poor conditions or at night. The harness should be worn under the lifejacket and waist and shoulder straps need to be adjusted to ensure a good fit. All lifejackets should be equipped with a whistle, light, and retro-reflective strips.


The lifejacket has a waist belt to ensure that It cannot ride up. A crotch strap can provide extra security.


Air-only lifejackets are far less bulky than foam-only or air-foam buoyancy. The CO2 cylinder, which inflates air lifejackets, may be activated automatically on entering the water or by pulling a toggle. It also has an oral inflator.


All dinghy crew should carry a purpose-designed safety knife, which must be accessible during a capsize. This is to cut through rope or cord if a crew member gets trapped under the boat or sail.

Multi-purpose tool stored in buoyancy-aid pocket


A safety harness is the most important piece of safety equipment at sea as it keeps you on the boat. The harness may be built in to a waterproof jacket or a lifejacket or, as here, it may be separate. A separate harness can be worn at any time. Make sure to stay clipped on at all times (see pp.188-89, 260-61).

Multi-purpose tool stored in buoyancy-aid pocket

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  • jessie
    How to stop my buoyancy aid riding up over my chin while trapezing?
    1 year ago

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